“I just hate the newborn stage. I hate how unsettled I feel as I’m trying to figure out our new routines.” I confessed this to my sister-in-law not too long ago as I was processing through the hard that comes when you are given the gift of a baby.

Last week my husband lost his best friend and mentor unexpectedly to a pulmonary embolism. My husband had just had lunch with him the day prior to his death where his friend actually said to him, while not going through any major trial, that sometimes he’s just really tired of this world and how he couldn’t wait for the day when he would be united with Jesus in eternity. That really struck a chord with my husband, so much so that he shared that story with me even before his friend’s passing. Then of course, we thought and talked much more about it after his friend was gone from this earth.

My husband’s friend was not settled here on earth, he was settled in Jesus, where his identity really was, with Christ. As we thought about his life and his heavenly perspective I thought about the statement I had made to my sister-in-law just a few weeks prior and the Lord brought the question to mind—are you too settled here?

I sadly had to answer that question with a yes. I’m settled here in this world. I’m settled and secure, at peace and rest when my schedule goes according to my plan. When things are easy. When they’re comfortable. Laurie asked in last week’s lecture as we’re embarking on our study for this semester, Jesus I Need You, who is Jesus to you? And do you live out who you say you believe Jesus is to you? When things are hard, uncomfortable, messy, sad, is Jesus my all, my everything, like I say with my mouth that He is? Unfortunately not. Instead of the reality of my identity being in Christ coming through in those moments, what you would see instead is my flesh response of self-pity, pride, anger, unrest, anxiety, impatience and an all-out fight quite honestly to get my way to happen.

Once my to-dos get crossed, once the babies are napping, once the babies are healthy, once the Bible reading and Bible study homework is caught up on, etc. etc. then you’ll see me at rest, you’ll see me take a breath. What happened to me being able to be settled in Jesus?

To my husband’s friend, Jesus was more real to him than anything here on earth. He believed the reality of the truth, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). In this week’s homework of Jesus I Need You I read the scripture, “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength’” (Isaiah 30:15). My study Bible pointed out that the root form of the word for quiet, at ease and secure are the same. While it may not be the same root word, I think you could add settlement to that list of synonyms. In returning to the Lord, repentance, and resting, finding your soul settled in Him is where our real strength lies.

I recently finished a book entitled Missional Motherhood. The author, Gloria Furman, mentioned that it’s normal practice for us to look at life in seasons—seasons of mothering littles, seasons of infertility, seasons of hard, easy, you name it. She challenged readers, however, to think differently, that we’re not really in seasons, we’re in one, the season of life this side of heaven because everything is for God’s glory regardless of where we find ourselves in this particular moment. I keep looking at certain things that are hard and trying to get through them, to be settled in the easy and comfortable, idolizing that dream, instead of remembering that my settlement is to be found in the one who never changes, Jesus Christ, who is my Good Shepherd and because of Him I have no lack; who leads me in paths of righteousness for His names sake, for His glory (Psalm 23).

What does all this tell me? I need Jesus. I actually need Jesus; not to make things easy, not to make me comfortable, but I need Him and Him alone. Thank the Lord I see a tiny glimpse of my deep need. I want to be settled in Him alone, not a nap schedule working out for the day. Praise God for His grace in my desire, but I need His grace to live it too, to believe the reality that there’s someone so much more and better than all things here on this earth.

I’m too settled here. I’m too settled in my ways and routines, my relationships and I seek them more than I seek my relationship with the Lord, but contrary to what I may feel and what may appear to be the most real, by God’s grace, this is not my home; I’m just passing through and I’m praying for grace to believe that reality more than what’s right in front of me. To look towards my real home and find settlement in Him alone. To rejoice in Him alone.

“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness…” (Isaiah 61:10a).

What about you? Where are you settled?

Planted for His Glory

“You’re not going to find happiness in a piece of chocolate cake.”  Ok, I am paraphrasing Laurie from last week’s lecture.  But she did say something about chocolate cake not being able to provide lasting comfort when we are facing tough situations.

Is that really true?!  I thought chocolate solved pretty much all problems.

Of course, I am kidding.  I know, intellectually, that chocolate does not solve any problems.

But Laurie’s point hit home.  How many “chocolate cakes” do I turn to when I feel empty, isolated, sad, anxious, worthless or even when I’ve just had a tough day?  When I need to be comforted, to what do I turn?  For me, I turn inward and retreat.  I do something to distract my thoughts.  I may read a novel or watch a movie or surf the internet.  I may eat chocolate or even pull the covers over my head. Whatever I turn to, it is mindless and meaningless.  Sometimes, it doesn’t even cross my mind to stop and pray.

The Lord looks upon our hearts.  1 Sam 16:7 says, For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”  Even if I do not confess my sins, the Lord knows them all.  He knew everything about me before I was even born, and He knows everything about me now.  There is no place I can go to hide from Him.  (Psalm 139:7-8).

There is a particular sin I have been dealing with for a long while.  It has been so hard for me to understand why I haven’t been delivered from it.  I’ve confessed it and pleaded with the Lord to help me overcome it.  But this week, thinking about our lesson…about Jesus being led into the wilderness to fast for 40 days and 40 nights and to be repeatedly tempted by Satan, I realized I was like the Israelites who, also were led into the wilderness and repeatedly tested for 40 years. 40 years! God had to constantly work on their hearts to humble them and teach them to obey Him—and He is doing the same with me.

The first time I read that the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years, I could hardly believe it. How could they not follow God’s commands after what they had witnessed? They had been delivered from plagues, from oppression; the sea had parted for them so they could escape Egypt! Then the Lord provided food and He even physically led them as they walked, day and night, towards the Promised Land.  What was wrong with these people??

After reading the account multiple times throughout the years, the Lord opened my eyes to see how much I am like those people who grumbled at Moses and disregarded God’s law.  I have the same sinful heart condition they did. I want to travel the path of least resistance and so did they.

So what did Jesus, our Lord, do when Satan tempted Him?  He quoted scripture.  We are told in Matthew 4: 1-11 that Satan tempted Jesus three times: to end His hunger, show His power, and grant Him the ultimate earthly throne. And three times Jesus repelled Satan with the Word of God.

I especially like Matthew 4:10, Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”  If Jesus tells Satan to be gone, then by His Spirit, I am empowered to do the same.

This all ties together.  When I feel dispirited over this particular sin or wanting that path of least resistance, I know I am more susceptible to the wiles of the enemy.  The moment I become aware that my thoughts are shifting to a negative spin-cycle, I must remind myself to fight.  To tell the enemy to be gone!  To count to 10, pray, and turn to scripture.

I carry scripture with me. It’s on my phone.  In my car. In my purse. It’s posted in my house and at work. Currently, I am carrying verses that remind me how much God loves me, so that I can meditate on how He wants what is best and highest for me; He is not some far-off judge who is waiting for me to trip up so He can punish me.  I am praying to know what Paul knew:

“I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38-39 NLT).

That includes chocolate cake.

Growing in Grace

 

 

 

 

The Lord is allowing a challenging season in my life right now. I have two sweet babes, one that is 18 months old and one that is almost three months old. I’ve struggled a lot with even saying that this season is hard because I find myself feeling a lot of guilt for that. These boys are true gifts from God. There are people with their hearts just aching for babies and here I am with two. I also have many friends that have more babies than me and deal with so much more on a daily basis and so saying this is hard makes me feel like, quite frankly, just a wimp.

I honestly am right in the middle of these feelings and I don’t know what to do with them all. Many of my prayers lately have consisted of statements like “God will you just make sense of everything going on in my head because I’m too tired to even verbalize it all to you.”

One thing I know, however, is that my feelings just cannot be trusted. I’ve never been more aware of that as I see the highs and lows in any given day. It’s interesting to me, as I sit here and write this out how clear that is and yet in the middle of both boys screaming wanting mommy for hours on end, the feelings seem to be so much more real and present than God is. I read today in Lesson Four of Jesus I Need You, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). God is very present.

As I’ve gone through Jesus I Need You so far I’ve been made aware of how I think my relationship with Jesus is supposed to look, when in reality, I think it’s supposed to be entirely different. God is very present. This particular season I find myself in is not a “trial” that can be “fixed.” It’s not something I need healing from, it’s not something I need provision of. It’s just life as I know it, life as it was given. While I want and love comfort and things to be easy, that would mean not having life as it is right now and I don’t want that, I want my sweet babes, I’m so thankful for them. I’m beginning to ask God what it means to really have a relationship with Him. God is very present. How clear that is as I sit here during quiet nap time and write and think, but what does it look like to have this mind set in the screaming too?

When I sit here, when I stop and really think. Think on this scripture, that God is very present. I get out of my own head. I get out of trying to figure things out, make sense of everything. There’s one focus—this scripture telling me that God is very present. I step out of my world and think on things of God. I think on the unseen.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).

I see right now that I have a choice, I can choose to believe that God is very present in the hard things or I can feel the despair when my schedule isn’t going the way I think it needs to, I can feel the hopelessness when he just won’t stop crying, I can feel the guilt at the end of the day when I process the impatience and frustration that I lashed out on my babies, I can feel the pain of comparison when I look at the temporary earthly “hards” of others and think I’m just a wimp I need to suck it up. God is very present. I’m beginning to see how it is possible to “Count it all joy” like James says when hard things happen. I’ve been asking God to help me feel His love for me. I’ve felt guilty even asking Him that question because I know that Jesus on the cross should be plenty evidence, and truly, it is, but in the despair of my earthly mind over this past month it’s been hard to see, but it’s truly in this hard, this difficulty that God is revealing He is in fact very present and right now as I write to you and process through this all for the first time in this way, I do feel His love for me.

Everything still doesn’t make sense, I’ve been asking God a lot of questions lately trying to discern through all my feelings, but one thing I know for sure, God is very present. That’s true, that’s constant, and that’s everything. He is everything.

Life is hard and you may be experiencing something much more challenging in a worldly sense of the word, but the truth doesn’t change. Do you see that God is very present in your hard?

Planted for His Glory